The culture war, we are told by clever men, has been lost. It is true that Christians and cultural conservatives, to the extent these groups overlap, have lost a series of battles, but losing battles is not losing. Napoleon won a great many battles, but lost the war. Soviet communism won battle after battle, but the Soviets are no more. The culture war is not over, because Houston Baptist University has not surrendered. In fact we have just begun to fight.
Now the other side of the culture war might be amused by this . . . rather like Sauron discovering the Shire is declaring war on Mordor.
The analogy is not quite exact, because it overlooks how many allies Houston Baptist can find in unexpected places such as Rome, Istanbul, and Jerusalem. It also ignores the fact that losing helped us get rid of causes that confused real issues. This is not about restoring the 1950′s, please (!), but about making 2020 better.
Cultural conservatives have lost several battles, but in losing they have also created an infrastructure that is ready to fight back. It is true that much of what has been down has been poor, but quality has been improving in many areas. Today’s Christian music is better than the music of my youth. Musicians are less apt to want to live in the ghetto of Christian music or wish to play by recording industry rules. The same is true of filmmaking. Compare the “Christian” films of my youth with even the cheesiest films made today and the increase in quality is obvious.
A few mainstream films, such as “The Exorcism of Emily Rose,” could not have been made decades ago, but the problem remains old definitions. Hollywood was not defined by Edwardian media and the Houston Reclamation will not be defined by old rules.
If we have been in retreat, then technology has given the bold tools to launch a surprise on the cultural left. The old battle lines can be withdrawn by ignoring them and looping around them, the way Americans did in Korea with the Inchon landing. Maturing Christian subcultures are ready to surprise everyone and start renewing the West.
What is HBU’s Inchon plan?
First, we don’t want Hollywood or influence in Hollywood . . . or any other establishment. We want to make movies and distribute them. We want filmmakers who tell stories and do so with good craftsmanship. This fall we will be starting such a program. Nigeria and India both prove that ignoring Hollywood can pay. We aren’t going to make culturally conservative movies, of course, but be cultural conservatives who make movies.
Cloud Atlas or Atlas Shrugged proved that propaganda films don’t work for humanists whether they are mystics or libertarians. We are not going to make propaganda, but art.
Isn’t it time for a movie program that made movies and didn’t just talk about movies?
We are going around Hollywood and landing in the living rooms of Americans.
HBU is building on creative writing with MFA work. We are producing art through folk like Michael Collins. We are building an art gallery and museums through gifts from collectors who want the gallery to reflect their worldview. Our student paper is moving into media arts of all kinds while Barbara Elliot begins teaching how social justice and Christian values unite. Our faculty are moving ideas from the classroom to public space as part of their jobs.
Speaking of worldview, we are training faculty and freshman through the Francis Schaeffer Center and the work of Nancy Pearcey. On the cultural front, we are reclaiming what can be salvaged through a cultural apologetics program. The work of scholars such as Jerry Walls and Mike Licona in graduate philosophy refuses to play by old rules . . . and our hobbit invasion gets academic support as we set up an endowed chair beachhead in Oxford and in the writings of faculty such as Lou Markos.
We read great books because we love them and not just our honors kids read them: everyone does. All this in a school more diverse than any. Find a school that has a better universally applied core curriculum and we will look at it! If not, send your kid or grandkid to HBU.
Mary Jo Sharp makes sure this is not just your father’s apologetics program. And we don’t want you simply smart, we want virtue even more.
All this is laid out in the “Ten Pillars” by our President Robert Sloan, who knows higher education. This is not your grandfather’s Christian college, unless your grandfather had today’s technology and a robust Christian and conservative worldview. Unlike most Christian colleges, HBU is not sectarian, we have a progressive vision, but aren’t arguing about orthodoxy.
We are Socratic about our traditionalism and traditionally Socratic.
Some smarty-pants in the back of the Internet will point out that the Inchon invasion did not end the war. Things went badly after they went well, but that is the way of culture wars. One reason I am not a “mere” conservative is that I am not just about conserving, as a Christian I have a creation mandate and a desire for a progressive vision. Somethings change, but somethings should not change. Christianity informs me where conserving is good and where conserving is foolish. We are not going back to the future, we are creating a better future with the best of the old and the new.
It is Burke and Disraeli, but mostly it is Jesus: the progressive conservative. God is renewing creation: not recreating it! It is winning what can be won, not “winning.” America is not our home, after all, the New Jerusalem is.
HBU will not “win” the culture war, but we will be part, by God’s good grace, of winning the battles of our time. The war will not end, because (as conservatism knows) Utopia is not going to be found in this life, certainly not in Houston. We might fail, but our failure will be more interesting than Christian colleges who negotiate the terms of their surrender or who learn to lose gracefully. If you can find a school with a clearer Inchon plan than the Ten Pillars, support it, or you could join us here in Houston as we fight.
Perhaps, really, fighting is not the right analogy as we mostly plan jollification: the appropriation of the world God created and the best of what His children make in as inclusive a manner as virtue will allow.
I cannot wait.